Guwahati, 2017.05.18 (Prabin Kalita, TNN): What was supposed to be a pilgrimage by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC)-run budget ‘Astha Circuit Special Tourist Train’, turned out to be the last journey for three travellers, including a woman, from the state.
According to an official of IRCTC, one male passenger, Binoy Kumar Goin, aged 75 years, died at a Mathura hospital on Monday while a 61-year-old female traveller died at a hospital at Vrindavan on Tuesday and the third passenger, a 65-year-old male passenger Upen Deka, died on the train on Tuesday night before it reached Lucknow.
Several passengers of the train, who sent videos to local television channels, complained of poor condition of the train due to lack of water and electricity inside the coaches.
An IRCTC official said, “The tourists were aged and quite weak physically. They were suffering from high blood pressure. The heat of north India took its toll on them. Adequate care and medical help have been provided whenever tourists have fallen ill. But, this is very unfortunate that lives have been lost.”
The IRCTC, which launched the Astha train last February in collaboration with the railways, is now planning to introduce a set of guidelines for pilgrims when the next trip is announced. “This unfortunate incident is an eye-opener for us. We will have a doctor on board. Train passengers wanting to avail of the pilgrimage trip will have to provide medical fitness certificates,” the official said.
The train, which started on May 10 from Guwahati, was returning after covering Haridwar, Amritsar, Mathura, Agra and Varanasi when the tragic incident occurred. The IRCTC official said the whole journey is for nine days and eight nights at an all-inclusive cost of Rs 8,100 per passenger.
According to an official statement from the IRCTC, Goin had fallen sick at Haridwar and was admitted to a hospital there on May 12. He was released the next day. “On reaching Ambala on May 14, he was taken for a check-up with a local doctor, who advised him rest, but the tourist insisted on continuing with the tour. On reaching Mathura on May 15, the passenger did not go for the local sightseeing trip but preferred to take rest. At night, when the tour manager went to see the passenger, he found him very weak. He immediately asked for medical help from the station manager at Mathura, who advised him that he should be taken to hospital immediately. The doctors declared him dead when he was taken to hospital. His family members were contacted, who requested that his mortal remains be sent to Guwahati. An IRCTC staff has taken the remains to Guwahati,” the statement said.
On the other hand, Hazarika, after falling ill at Brindavan, was to taken to Maheswar Hospital for treatment but she expired on May 16. “Her family members were informed and they have said they would take the mortal remains from the hospital on their own,” an official of IRCTC said.
The third dead tourist, Deka expired on the train at night. “A doctor was called at the Lucknow station and his body has been kept in Lucknow for legal formalities. His family members will take his body,” the official said.